Parenting Priorities

I wan’t parented. I was bullied through childhood and into adulthood. I only heard my mother say she was sorry one time. My childhood was filled with fear and angst.  Being raised this way taught me a lot of things about parenting. In addition to hoping our children would be people of wisdom, character and great faith I have lived with some internal, seldom spoken of goals.

Goal #1. As a parent I place a high priority on happiness. My goal was that my children would have joyful, happy memories, no matter the circumstances, of their childhood. I think kid should enjoy being kids. They should have ice cream all over their face, play dough under their finger nails and endless bicycle adventures. We invested in their eduction but also in their creativity.  They had activities and relationships aimed at creating good memories.

We also enjoy our teenagers. I love their laughter and their groups of friends that eat freely from our refrigerator. Their game nights are loud, raucous and crazy. My happiest times are when they have their friends packed into our little house enjoying one another, whether its playing or singing together or enjoying a campfire. As they have turned into young adults we are proud of them and enjoy seeing them reach dreams and become great people. These children of our have turned into some great adults and I hope they are happy.

Goal #2. I want my children to hear ‘I’m sorry’. I’m not particularly good at this but I try. As parents it is difficult to submit yourself to the inevitability that we will be wrong. However, I am convinced that while our mistakes may be epic our ability to ask for forgiveness is redeeming.

Goal #3. My goal is that our children don’t live in fear. I was always afraid of my mother, convinced my next mistake would lead to a beating or other severe consequences. While I think our children need to have healthy respect and good boundaries I didn’t want them to live afraid of me or of others. I want them to enjoy their lives and for other people to enjoy them.

Becoming a parent is a much bigger task than I anticipated but these are some of the internal principles that governed my thoughts as we were raising little ones. I’m not anywhere near a perfect parent but I love these humans tirelessly and undying devotion.

Season of Stillness

I was raised in a religious environment that led me to believe if I wasn’t striving in my faith I was moving backwards. Stillness meant spiritual death. Not “working out my faith” meant was condemning it the fiery depths. Every time, I “stalled out”, I begged for forgiveness from a God who I thought measured my worth by my works. I served God as if  some spiritual sundial was sundowning on my efforts and I would come up empty handed.

As I have entered a new season of self care I have begun to wonder where in that praxis is there room for self care and peace?  If we are always chasing something how can we rest and meditate on the things of the Lord? How can we enter the  peace and rest of a shepherd that longs only for our presence? Where does ‘abiding’ just being in the presence of something bigger than ourselves fit in?

I would offer this. If one is always chasing a sense of success in their worship of the almighty, their focus is misdirected as to what the roles of God and humankind are. Faith exists as an avenue for worship with firm resolve that our worship is a gift that benefits the giver. Faith is a journey, not a destination.

I have learned to find peace in the stillness because I know God is there. It is in the blackness, the quiet and the silence that I am secure because it is where I feel the most held. There is no distraction of myself and my own feeble attempts to win the grace of One who gives it freely.

This has been a season of stillness. I have not been working at my faith but thankfully it is is working on me.

Sax Gratitude

I wanted to play the saxophone. I imagined myself a hip, cool, wild and free saxophonist, muppet Zoot and Janice style. Sadly, I was a disgruntled pianist who, in addition to playing sax, wanted to be a brave, soaring solo vocalist. I tried. I remember singing in a trio in high school but when I went off key, from the audience my mother put her finger up to her lips to shush me. I was mortified and swore off spotlight singing from then on.

I was just a boring pianist. Sure, I successfully played for 13 years. Yes, I won competitions. Yes, the neighbors said they opened their windows when i was practicing so they could hear me play. Yes, I had my own piano students when I was 13 years old. But still, it wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to play that big, unwieldy formal instrument. I was Zoot in spirit.

I also always wanted blond hair like Nellie Olson, not the thick heavy asian hair that I was gifted.  So often we want what we cannot have and envy those who do.

I fell asleep the other night crying. The last thing I remember sobbing was “but I don’t want to be a writer!”  It isn’t that I don’t love writing or appreciate the impact of well placed words on lives. It is just that I never imagined my life would be so solitary and quiet at this point. “I’m a teacher. A pastor. A preacher. A leader. I’m supposed to be at the microphone not sequestered to my desk, writing word pictures in anonymity that may never be read.”  

If this sounds like a temper tantrum, it is. If it sounds like ingratitude, its because it is.

Twenty years ago when I moved into this small town a dear friend, retired pastor and brilliant writer used to say to me EVERY TIME I visited their house, “Jill! You need to write. You can reach so many more people if you write. Start writing. You can do it!” He had no idea that inside my heart there were many books already started and so many stories ‘banked” for just the right moment. He sensed something that God was already speaking. The truth is, I may never have taken the time to discover whether writing “fit” me or not if I weren’t forced to be still, be silent and be alone. But I have and I truly love it.  “I’m listening Brother Brandt. Thank you.”

Today I thank God for the things I am, without diminishing myself or the gifts I have by wanting something else.  So with gratitude in one hand and my pen in the other the only thing I can say now is . . . how am I supposed to hold my coffee?!